The Angry Singlespeeder: Singlespeeds aren’t dead. They just smell funny.

The ASS weighs in on the "state of singlespeeds"

Zach Allen keeps it real at Mammoth 2014 as the only singlespeeder in the cross country race.

Zach Allen keeps it real at Mammoth 2014 as the only singlespeeder in the cross country race (click to enlarge).

While thumbing through a freshly delivered copy of Dirt Rag magazine last week, I encountered some “screed” on the state of singlespeeds written by fellow scribe and mountain biking buddy Eric McKeegan. In short, Eric said “singlespeeds = dead”. According to Eric, what used to be a thriving tribe of counterculture misfits is no more. They’ve moved on.

In the words of Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction, “allow me to retort”. Singlespeeds aren’t dead. They just smell funny. What do I mean by this? So long as bicycles exist as a thing, singlespeeds exist as a thing. While Eric may be onto something when talking about a singlespeed tribe or culture, that’s not the reason why I started singlespeeding. The state of singlespeeds shouldn’t be judged based on the fleeting counterculture that surrounds them.

It’s true. The ASS loves to pretend he’s Rich “Dicky” Dillen.

It’s true. The ASS loves to pretend he’s Rich “Dicky” Dillen (click to enlarge).

For me riding a singlespeed is just another tool in the toolbox of bicycles. I don’t only ride a singlespeed. Nowadays I’m riding my geared full suspension bike just as much or more because the brutally steep terrain around Downieville requires it. People like to jibe me when I post a picture of my Ripley with gears under my ASS Instagram handle. I have no shame admitting I’ve got more geared bikes in my garage than ones without derailleurs. If that makes me a hypocrite, then I’ll own up to it fully. The road of life is paved with hypocrisy.

There’s a fine line between being stubborn and stupid. Through extensive experience, I know the line well, which is why I am more selective these days about bringing my singlespeed to a place like Downieville. In the words of the great Greg Williams of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, “the only reason why you’d ride a singlespeed around Downieville is if you recently got divorced or declared bankruptcy.”

The ASS doesn't hate gears all the time, just some of the time. Photo by Craig Buster

The ASS doesn’t hate gears all the time, just some of the time (click to enlarge). Photo by Craig Buster

I don’t ride a singlespeed because “fuck you”. I don’t ride a singlespeed because it pairs well with leather jackets, tattoos, punk rock and getting hammered all the time. I ride a singlespeed because I’m a faster climber on one. I ride a singlespeed because I love the sensation of going downhill without a chain incessantly banging on my chainstay. I ride a singlespeed because I prefer the worry-free, low-maintenance benefits of a bike with no shifters or derailleurs. I ride a singlespeed because I cherish the looks people give after telling them I did a 50-mile ride with 8,000 feet of climbing on a bike with no gears. I ride a singlespeed because it pays homage to the original one-speed velocipede invented more than 130 years ago. And yes, I ride a singlespeed because it’s the best release for a wellspring of anger.

For me, singlespeeding has never been about looking cool, being cool or hanging out with other people who think they’re cool. Last year I spoke up about the shitshow that was Singlespeed World Championships in Alaska, and a good friend who was also in attendance said, “you shouldn’t have talked bad about SSWC, because you’re causing a rift in the tribe.”

The ASS negotiating Downieville's murderous 8-mile climb on a singlespeed. Photo by Forrest Arakawa

The ASS negotiating Downieville’s murderous 8-mile climb on a singlespeed (click to enlarge). Photo by Forrest Arakawa

Tribe? What tribe? I ride a singlespeed for me. Nobody else. Single. Speed. It should come as no coincidence that I prefer to ride my singlespeed alone. I don’t need a tribe to be able to ride my bike. So when I hear singlespeeds are dead, I shrug my shoulders. The anti-establishment counterculture long associated with singlespeeds may be dying, but who cares? If that’s the only reason why you choose to ride a singlespeed, then you shouldn’t have gotten a singlespeed in the first place. Go buy a fat bike or something. I guarantee you that singlespeeds will still be around long after fat bikes = dead.

Perhaps Eric thinks singlespeeds are dead because TheAngry Singlespeeder ceases to exist as a person on Facebook any longer. Three months ago the Facebook Gestapo shut down my user account, stating they required a valid government ID to get my account reactivated. Since I don’t have any ID validating my pseudonym, naturally I was up a stump. Even though I sent them an ID with my real name numerous times to work out the situation, they’ve continually ignored and deleted my support requests with no explanation.

So if you’re reading this and wondering why we’re not Facebook friends any more, it’s not because I blocked you. It’s not because singlespeeds are dead. It’s just because the folks at Facebook suck at communicating. Nearly 10,000 friends and followers are now in the dark because TheAngry has disappeared from the world of Facebook. But as my literary hero Mark Twain famously said, “the report of my death was an exaggeration”. The same goes for singlespeeds. Now if anyone knows somebody high up at Facebook who can help resurrect TheAngry, drop me a line.

Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at s[email protected]. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.

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  • Eric Davis says:

    Nice article Kurt, I have and ride a SS much of the time but also have geared bikes. IMHO, rides like the Whole Enchilada are just more fun on a FS geared bike.

  • Mdub says:

    There is a bike for every trail. I ride to have fun and enjoy the ride and push my personal riding envelope. Sometimes, the most fun bike for the trail is a singlespeed. It’s a personal preference on both the bike and definition of fun.
    Riding full rigid or a hardtail makes you smoother and helps you appreciate a well-designed full suspension. Riding single makes you faster and helps you appreciate when gears are necessary. It’s all bikes and it’s all good!

  • Alan says:

    SS with rigid fork —-all the way!
    I cant certainly understand the merits of a full suspension in rocky, big downhill or mountain areas. The number of people i see riding them in the flat lands where I live is insane. Even plenty of downhill bikes around here…so….so stupid.

  • Peper says:

    Alan I couldn’t agree with you and the ASS more. I live in Northern Utah right up again the Wasatch Front and trust me your SS will Strava faster times than 80% of the riders up and down.
    Kevin F York I have to disagree with you. If it doesn’t happen on Strava weather you have witnesses or not. IT DIDN”T HAPPEN!

  • Tom says:

    The two SS guys I know would die quietly under torture before they logged onto Strava!

  • Joe Paluch says:

    I have started tinkering with SS style riding on my geared HT. I just pick SS worth gear ratio and never shift. It is not as pure as a proper SS, but gives me what I am looking for. Which is not being “cool”, but trying to get faster overall by working new muscles and new skills needed when you have no gears, but only legs to get you over the trail.

  • Alan says:

    SS is no where near dead.
    Every few years Its always something: suspension will kill hardtail, 29er will kill 26′, 650b will kill 29er, 1×11 will kill 3×10. Now the new thing is wide rims will take over the world. These cycling companies will make sh.t just so they can market it and charge an enormous amounts fort it. VERY little of it is true innovation with purpose, its just making the newest something so little gullible Johnnie can fork over his credit card.

  • Don says:

    It’s alright Alan. The first stage of grief is Denial. Go ahead, let it all out.

  • Natalia says:

    I ride SS because I still haven’t grown out of my BMX days back in the 80s. I have gears, but SS is more fun. I do cheat with a dingle-speed setup though, a bailout gear for when my legs are whipped, so I can make it back home.

  • I'mRight says:

    I ride a SS – Because I can.

  • Thub says:

    Ok ASS enough with the fat bike hate. You take the time to pen this article because some buddy of yours offended you with his article about SS death. Your always ripping the fat bike, guess what bro for those of us that live in cold climates the fat bike enables us to enjoy cycling year round. I think the whole point of your article being about different bikes for different purposes applies equally to fat bikes. Just because you don’t get it doesn’t mean others don’t. Spend a winter up north and you’ll see the utility of the fat bike. Anything that gets anyone outside on a bike is good.

  • David says:

    I ride both gears and single speed and have no intention of going exclusive with one or the other…ever, For me, the SS is a fun training tool that I can hop on to blast around the local trails. It teaches me to climb faster and carry momentum better so that when I’m on gears, I’m faster across the board.

  • Dave_f says:

    Why would you wear ski goggles on your forehead on a hot 8 mile climb?

    Do BMX and dirtbikes qualify as SSers?

  • Felton Flyer says:

    I SS therefore I am

  • egggman says:

    I have ridden singlespeed MTB since a friend set me up on my first one. It is fun, enough said.

    I prefer my cx to have gears but with blown everything it is a mish mash Singlespeed for now…

  • Juan Grande says:

    1st picture – might want to use a better picture to promote the merits of single speeds than a guy spit out the back and dropped in a cross country race. There’s not another racer in sight he’s been dropped so bad. BAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Enough with the elitist single speed attitude.
    Who the fuck cares what you’re riding as long as you’re outside riding and having fun.
    Like @Thub and @Tiger Martin said…any bike that gets people outside riding is the best.

    Now quit being such an elitist SS douche bag and spread some good vibes…You’re not that important.

  • Scot says:

    It’s like telemarking. There was a core group for decades, then someone decided it was cool and trendy. All of a sudden everyone is on tele’s. Soon it will revert back to the core group. Same with singlespeeds- there will always be a core group carrying it through the fads.

  • Robert says:

    I ride my single speed when I feel like not shifting. I have one set up for a road ride and one for the trail. My favorite trail bike is now my fat bike. 🙂 I know what A.S.S. might think about that. Hey, ride what you like and like what you ride no matter what it is.

  • MorbidGreasespot says:

    ASS, fsck facebook — get on here:
    And I couldn’t agree more, I ride whatever the hell I want to ride, including my ancient rigid — geared or singlespeed depending on my mood.

  • MBR says:

    Time for all the SS riders out there to HTFU, if you’re going to continue and try to ride the trendy SS wave. Get rid of all those high-tech materials on your bike. You selectively turned your back on an adjustable drivetrain, why do you need all that carbon fiber, Ti and high strength aluminum and steel alloy parts. Front fork? Who needs that? Disc brakes? Suck it up and ride a fixie, bro. BTW, real men ride a penny-farthing!

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